Cannabis is evolving into an effective treatment to relieve chronic pain in people with sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell disease affects 400,000 births per year worldwide and affects approximately 100,000 Americans. This hereditary genetic disease of the blood materializes through a mutation in our DNA that causes our body to produce abnormal hemoglobin that deforms red blood cells, making them more rigid and more fragile. There is currently no treatment that can cure it, although bone marrow transplants and gene therapy offer hope.
The effectiveness of cannabis in relieving pain increases with time
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have found that cannabis can relieve patients of the chronic pain caused by sickle cell anemia. “These test results show that inhaled cannabis seems generally safe,” said Kalpna Gupta, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, who co-directed the study. They also suggest that patients with sickle cell anemia may be able to ease their pain with cannabis. The results of this study were published in the Jama Network Open magazine. Currently, the main treatments for pain relief in patients are based on opiates. The increase in deaths related to the excessive use of opiates has led doctors to prescribe opiates less frequently, leaving sickle cell patients with fewer options. “Cannabis could help society cope with the public health crisis caused by opioids,” says Kalpna Gupta.
The results have shown that the effectiveness of cannabis increases over time to reduce the pain of sickle cell anemia patients. They described having less pain while walking and better sleep. There was also a statistically significant decrease in pain that affected their state of mind. The researchers did so in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. This is the first study to use this method to assess the potential for pain relief from cannabis in people with sickle cell anemia. The cannabis used in the experiment contained equal amounts of THC and CBD, the plant’s two active ingredients. Twenty-three patients suffering from pain took cannabis or placebo during two five-day hospital stays at least 30 days apart.
An alternative to opiates
This study offers doctors an additional option for the treatment of chronic pain. “We still need larger studies with more participants to get a better picture of how cannabis can benefit people with chronic pain,” the researcher said. The results showed the effect of cannabis taken in vaporized form without other ways of using the plant being identified as effective. “The pain leads many people to resort to cannabis and is in fact the main reason people give for looking for cannabis in clinics. We do not know if all forms of cannabis products will have a similar effect on chronic pain. The inhaled cannabis we have used may be safer than other forms because smaller amounts enter the body’s circulation. This study opens the door to testing different forms of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain,” concluded Kalpna Gupta.